Fall of the Trident @lord22

Chapter Nine: Landfall

A breeze blew in from the shores of Troy, bringing with the scent of cooking fires. Arkantos looked out at the assembled Greek hosts and found himself disappointed. It was a large camp, surrounded by a wall and with many banners upon it. Yet though it was a large army, it did not seem nearly so large as the one he'd seen depart.

Had the Greeks been reduced this much? Or was the host in several different places? In any event, Arkantos looked to Zethos, who eyed it. "Is that the Greek Camp?"

"Yes," said Arkantos. "I was expecting all the armies of Greece to be more formidable, even with the cost of war. Say nothing, we'll see what we can find."

They landed, and Arkantos walked ashore. The men of Atlantis were met with cheers from the Achaeans, and many banged their spears. Arkantos walked to the tent where Agamemnon's banner was set and found the King warming his hands.

The man looked older than when last they'd met. His beard had been shaved, and his armor showed signs of wear. He clasped the sword at his side, stood, and smiled. "Arkantos, by the gods, I did not expect Mother Atlantis to send her best admiral to fight for me."

"Gracious words, King Agamemnon," said Arkantos. Yet he thought that the praise was not so great as it once would have been. Then he looked up and saw another giant of a man with brown stubble over his rugged face. He wore a lions mane over his head and held a huge shield with a lion pelt over it. In his other hand was a spear, and he towered over all others. Arkantos smiled. "And look at this, Ajax. I'm surprised to see you still drawing breathe!"

Ajax laughed. "These Trojan Dogs keep trying, my friend, good to see you again. Who did you upset to get sent so far from home?"

Arkantos looked back to his host as they unloaded supplies and cargo. They had been brought to aid the Greeks since Arkantos guessed supplies might be a problem. "Well, someone had to come and help you put an end to this."

"Helen is held behind their walls, and we've had little luck breaking through," said Ajax. "When Achilles was here, we were doing well. He and Odysseus were invaluable. Between us, we conquered sixty cities throughout the lands. That kept our supplies high and allowed us to deny Troy allies.

"Of course, then the Priest of Apollo happened."

"I had heard of a disagreement between you and Achilles, Agamemnon," said Arkantos. He examined Agememnon's face and saw him look angry, and then just sad.

"Yes, well, the Priest of Apollo demanded I random his daughter back to him. But he was a prize I was granted by the army," said Agamemnon. "Awarded for my leadership. Naturally, I refused, but Apollo began to rain plague down upon us. Achilles demanded that I hand the girl over and...

"Well, tempers were high, and I demanded that he give me his prize as compensation.

"It was an unwise move. One we've all come to regret since. If I could take back my actions, I would do it now. This war might be over now if only we'd all shown greater wisdom."

"Where is Achilles now?" asked Arkantos.

"Gone," said Ajax in disgust. "As soon as Agamemnon gave the girl back to the Priest, Achilles reneged on his side of the deal. He took Briseis and all his forces and just left with all his plunder. The coward left us here high and dry to finish the war by ourselves. Didn't even look back.

"He left us all to rot."

"If he'd stayed, we might have won," said Agamemnon. "As it was, Hector attacked the next day, and we were hard put to it. Diomedes and Ajax fought as hard as we could to drive the enemy back, but...

"Menelaus is dead. He fought bravely and well, and he and Diomedes kept the Trojans back. But then Paris shot him from behind a stone as Hector engaged Diomedes."

Then the entire reason the war had been launched was now for naught.

"And what of Diomedes?" asked Arkantos, feeling bitter. Menelaus had been a good king in his own domain and a brave warrior. And he still remembered meeting Paris.

Anger welled within him at the thought. His memory recalled a slim, strong youth that reminded him of himself at that age. His words were very fine, and he was charismatic. Paris had been a good companion to speak within times of peace and talented for his age. Yet he'd hated violence, a quality which Arkantos thought worth more than most.

It had been Hector, his brother, that Arkantos had not gotten on well with, and he was never sure why. Arkantos had admired the man, but he also saw in him every virtue Arkantos had lacked. Hector was a master of horses, with a fiery devotion that made men wish to die for him. His skill at arms had been compared even to Achilles and only gained in power since.

Arkantos did not consider himself a poor warrior; he knew himself to be quite good. But it had come from long years of experience in war, and he knew he would never be like Hector. Nor would he be remembered alongside the likes of Achilles or Ajax.

Arkantos wondered how Paris and Hector had changed since then. What had driven Paris to take Helen with him? And why had Hector chosen to defend him? What had caused Troy to fall so low?

"Where is Diomedes now?" asked Arkantos bitterly.

"Diomedes did not make it," said Agamemnon. "Hector caught him through the throat with a sword. Still, thanks to Ajax's heroism, we were able to hold.

"We've burned our dead. Now, with your help, we may avenge them."

"For now," said Ajax. "Odysseus has taken many of our forces out to raid Trojan supply lines. Hector has taken his chance to resupply Troy and resettle lost lands.

"Helen is held behind their walls, and we've had little luck breaking through."

"We're about to change that," said Agamemnon. "You have arrived in time for our final push, Arkantos. Get your men ashore. You can make your camp to the east; it will provide cover for our left flank. But be careful, the Trojans have some scouts in that area.

"When you are done, we will start preparations for your assault."

"Is negotiation possible?" asked Arkantos. "Surely, the entire purpose of this war is now gone. Perhaps we could arrange for restitution."

"Unfortunately, no," said Agamemnon. "The Trojans believe victory is within their grasp. And they hold us now in bitter hatred. So any negotiation for Helen would be in vain. We'll have to take the city, or at least beat them badly enough to win."

"I see," said Arkantos. "Has anyone killed Paris yet?"

"Unfortunately, no," said Ajax. "But once I find him, I'll rip his head off. Enough good men have died for him already."

"Well then," said Arkantos. "I'd best establish my camp."

"My men will go with you," said Ajax. "It's been years since our last battle together, and I'd like to see how Atlanteans fight."

"By all means," said Arkantos. "Zethos, send scouts ahead, tell us what you find."

There were many other decisions to be made, of course. The land around them had gone wild with the loss of so many farmers. Roads were in disrepair or overgrown entirely, and one found bodies now and then. Corpses picked clean by animals, from men who had died without being found.

These Arkantos had given a burial, along with two coins for the boatman. He also gave instructions that men report any such corpses they found. The dead had been waiting on Hades' shores long enough. He didn't want them to wait any longer.

The journey east, meanwhile, led them through tangled forests. Now and then, Arkantos saw deer running through the woods. They were in far greater numbers than you ever saw in settled lands.

"Artemis, at least, benefits from human misery," mused Arkantos.

On they walked.

"Sir, we spotted some Trojan scouts," said Zethos, coming up.

"Was there a fight?" asked Arkantos.

"No, however, they escaped before we could lay hands on them," said Zethos. "They've run off north to the gates. Hector knows we're here now."

"Well then, we'll need to establish our stronghold quickly," said Arkantos.

"You might have some help," said Ajax ruefully. "There's already a number of fortified settlements that are loyal to the Achaeans."

"Captured from Troy?" asked Arkantos.

"Not exactly," said Ajax.

Arkantos paused. "What is Odysseus still doing here anyway? He's always hated war. And he tried to get out of going to this one by pretending to be mad."

"He's loyal to his comrades," said Ajax. "Unlike Achilles. Although, well, we were considering moving off when your ships arrived."

So, Arkantos had arrived just in time to prolong the war. He'd just have to win it, then.

Soon they came to the village Ajax spoke of, and the men entered it. Passing through the wooden gates, Arkantos quickly began setting things up. Yet he noticed that the buildings were all of Greek work. Trojan styles had an eastern tinge to it, like Persia and Egypt, and they had shrines to some of the Egyptian Gods.

The people here mostly looked Greek, or at least partially. "This village... where did it come from?"

"We made it," said Ajax with a sigh. "Ten years of pillaging makes men long for home. Many of the younger men seized wives from captured cities. Others took slaves, and all were resettled here within areas under our control. Many are trained to fight or to work.

"We actually don't have enough ships to transport them all.

"With Achilles gone, we're concerned these might go over to the Trojans. That's why Agamemnon wanted you to settle here."

Arkantos nodded. "Very well then, Zethos, get men on the walls, and prepare to repulse attacks. I also want you to begin scouring the area for any sign of Troys operations.

"And send word to our ships, tell them to harbor here.

"And..." Then his gaze fell upon a huge, white building. Yet the pillars were fallen all around them. Vines were creeping up the rock, and men stayed away from it.

"What is it?" asked Ajax.

"A shrine to Poseidon," said Arkantos. "Why is it in disrepair?"

"It once belonged to the Trojans. After he sided against Troy, however, they withdrew and stopped trying to hold it. Agamemnon ordered it was not to be touched, however, well... Cyzicus has less respect for the gods."

"King Cyzicus? He took the side of Troy?" asked Arkantos. He dwelled in the east along the shores of the Mediterranean. Although Arkantos had never met him or been to his cities, he knew him to be powerful. King Priam had always had strong relations with him, as he had with everyone.

King Priam.

There was a man who Arkantos had sought to emulate. Wise in rule, strong in battle, a father of many. King Priam was respectful of the gods and had been richly rewarded for it. And now Arkantos would have to kill him. To destroy a good man's city because honor dictated he do no less.

All because of Paris.

"Yes," said Ajax. "When Achilles and Odysseus started taking cities, they captured a full sixty of them. None of them very large, compared to Troy or Atlantis, of course, but it was hard fighting. That's where most of these captives came from.

"Cyzicus, however, resisted. You see, the Trojans are near enough that Hector can relieve them. We did drive a wedge between them, but they've since resumed trade. At any rate, Czicus ransacked Poseidon's temple. He killed his priests after the Priest of Apollo had his daughter claimed.

"Apparently, Apollo was looking for revenge."

"Cyzicus may be feigning the approval of Apollo as well," noted Arkantos. He did not want to believe things had escalated to a war between gods. Such an idea was... horrifying to contemplate. "In any event, we must restore this temple to Poseidon. I believe this is why he desired me to come to this place."

"Are you sure?" asked Ajax. "I heard rumors that a Hippocampus came to Achilles right after he was told to give Agamemnon Briseis. They say it told him that if he did not leave immediately, he would die here.

"It's why no one has been in a hurry to fix this place with everything else to worry about."

"We must show respect for the gods," said Arkantos simply.

"He might have just wanted you to burn Troy down," said Ajax.

"I'm certain we can do that at the same time, Ajax," said Arkantos. "And his favor may turn this war to our advantage." Then he paused. "Ajax, tell me something, before I came here, was there any attempt to end this without destroying Troy."

"There was," said Ajax. "Paris challenged Menelaus to single combat. The winner would take Helen home, and the Greeks would depart either way. Paris almost ran away from the challenge of his own issue, however.

"And when he fought Menelaus, he lost. But before Menelaus could kill him, Aphrodite spirited him away. And so, the fighting continued."

"Why?" asked Arkantos. "Why should she protect him when he has brought such misery to the world? What could she stand to gain by it?"

"Who knows?" asked Ajax. "The gods do as they like. We're just stuck in the middle."

And so the Trojan War continued. Though for Arkantos, it was only beginning...

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